Popular Federal Laws and Regulations

Learn about some of the best-known U.S. laws and regulations.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal legislation that gives civil rights protections and guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in:

  • public accommodations
  • employment
  • transportation
  • state and local government services
  • telecommunications

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Disability Rights Section provides information about the federal guidelines established in the ADA through a toll-free information line: 1-800-514-0301 (TTY: 1-800-514-0383). This service permits businesses, state and local governments, and individuals to call and ask questions about general or specific ADA requirements and regulations, including questions about the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, as well as filing an ADA compliance complaint.

Visit the following resources for more information:

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Environmental Laws and Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partners with other federal agencies to enforce regulations that implement environmental laws enacted by Congress. State agencies enforce regulations that implement environmental laws enacted by state legislatures. To protect human health and the environment, these laws and regulations span several areas.    

Environmental Issues Handled by EPA

EPA addresses several issues, from setting limits on certain air pollutants to enforcing federal clean water and safe drinking laws. In addition, EPA enforces federal regulations to reduce the impact of businesses on the environment.

Environmental Issues Outside EPA's Jurisdiction  

Some environmental issues are primarily concerns of other federal, tribal, state, or local agencies.

Wildlife Concerns

Many wildlife concerns relate to the destruction of wetlands. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determines whether an area is a wetland and issues permits for use in such an area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) primarily manages the Endangered Species Act. It provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals as well as their habitats.

Food Safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EPA have a cooperative arrangement to carry out the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The FDA has responsibility over the safety of food and any substance that is applied to the human body.   

Workplace Concerns

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a part of the U.S. Department of Labor, deals with problems with the environment inside the workplace. This includes the presence or handling of chemicals and noxious fumes. 

Issues Relating to Tribal, State, and Local Agencies

Many environmental programs have been delegated to the states and they have primary responsibility over them. In addition, some environmental laws and regulations apply to tribal government operations.

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Federal Impeachment

Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a government official, in effect serving as prosecutor. The Senate then holds the impeachment trial, essentially serving as jury and judge, except in the impeachment of a president, when the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice presides.

The House has initiated impeachment proceedings more than 60 times but less than a third have led to full impeachments. Just eight—all federal judges—have been convicted and removed from office by the Senate. Outside of the 15 federal judges impeached by the House, two Presidents (Andrew Johnson in 1868 and William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton in 1998), a cabinet secretary (William Belknap in 1876), and a U.S. Senator (William Blount of North Carolina in 1797) have also been impeached. 

Impeachment can occur at the state level for state officials, including governors, through a state's legislature. Many county and municipal governments also have procedures for impeachment.

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Federal Laws and Regulations

Federal laws generally apply to people living in the United States and its territories. 

Congress creates and passes bills. The President then signs those bills into law. Federal courts may review these laws and strike them down if they think they do not agree with the U.S. Constitution.

Find Federal Laws

The United States Code contains the general and permanent laws of the United States. It does not include regulations issued by executive branch agencies, decisions of federal courts, treaties, or laws enacted by state or local governments.

New laws are assigned a public law number and included in the next edition of the United States Statutes at Large. You can also find new laws enacted by the current Congress before they are part of the United States Statutes at Large. 

If you are looking for older laws and have trouble finding them on the Internet, visit a law library or a Federal Depository Library

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Federal Regulations

Regulations are issued by federal agencies, boards, or commissions. They explain how the agency intends to carry out a law.

The Rulemaking Process

Federal regulations are created through a process known as rulemaking.

By law, federal agencies must consult the public when creating, modifying, or deleting rules in the Code of Federal Regulations. This is an annual publication that lists the official and complete text of federal agency regulations.

Once an agency decides that a regulation needs to be added, changed, or deleted, it typically publishes a proposed rule in the Federal Register to ask the public for comments.

After the agency considers public feedback and makes changes where appropriate, it then publishes a final rule in the Federal Register with a specific date for when the rule will become effective and enforceable.

When the agency issues a final rule for comment, it must describe and respond to the public comments it received.

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State Laws and Regulations

State laws generally apply just to people living in that state.

State legislatures create and pass bills and the governor signs them into law. State courts may review these laws and remove them if they think they do not agree with the state's constitution.

Find State Laws and Regulations

The Law Library of Congress has a guide for each state that can help you find laws and regulations.

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Federal Violation Notices (Tickets)

Federal law enforcement agencies may issue violation notices (tickets) for certain offenses, which the Central Violations Bureau (CVB) processes. These tickets contain instructions detailing the steps to take to resolve the violation. The CVB allows you to pay a fine by calling 1-800-827-2982, or you may pay a fine online or by mail.

You may wish to view answers to frequently asked questions, or you may wish to contact the CVB by e-mail at info@cvb.uscourts.gov, or by phone: 1-800-827-2982 or 1-210-301-6400.

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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) states that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. Each federal government agency is required under the FOIA to disclose records requested in writing by any person. If you would like to make a request for access to information under the FOIA, please contact the agency holding the records you would like to access.

Assistance with FOIA-Related Inquiries

The Department of Justice's Office of Information and Privacy (OIP) is the principal contact point within the executive branch for advice and policy guidance on matters pertaining to the administration of the FOIA. For more information, call 1-202-514-FOIA (1-202-514-3642).

Exemptions and Exclusions

Agencies may withhold information related to nine exemptions and three exclusions contained in the FOIA. The Act applies only to federal agencies and does not create a right of access to records held by Congress, the courts, or by state or local government agencies. Each state has its own public access laws.

FOIA-Related Statistics

You can search for data from a single agency or compare data from multiple agencies by exploring the FOIA data from an agency's annual FOIA report.

 

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Regulation of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Federal Government  

Two federal organizations regulate alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives:

  • Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) - collects taxes on alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and ammunition excise taxes and ensures that these products meet labeling, advertising, and marketing laws. They also administer the federal laws and regulations that protect consumers.
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) - enforces other federal laws and regulations relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, explosives, and arson in cooperation with other federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) is responsible for carrying out the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which Congress passed in 2009. This law – commonly called the Tobacco Control Act – gives FDA broad authority to regulate the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products.

State and Local Government 

State and local laws also regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol and tobacco. For more information:

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Same-Sex Marriage Laws

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decided by a vote of five in favor and four against, that same sex-couples have a constitutional right to marry. Any existing state laws or court decisions banning same-sex marriage became invalid and states are required to issue marriage licenses to, and recognize the marriages of, same-sex couples.

Read the syllabus of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case, and the majority and dissenting opinions.  

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